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‘I Thank God for Their Heroic Example,’ Pope Recalls Doctors & Priests Who Gave Lives (Full Text of Morning Homily)

Francis Also Warns Against Devil’s Ways to Annihilate Our Spiritual Lives

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«I thank God for their heroic examples.»

Pope Francis expressed this, during his private daily Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, again offered for the victims and those affected by the Coronavirus, praying especially today for doctors and healthcare providers, who have given their lives.

To date, more than 5,000 have died in Italy from COVID19, including many doctors, healthcare professionals, and priests in the north.

“I received the news that in these days,» Francis recalled, «a number of doctors and priests have died, I don’t know if there were a few nurses. They were infected…because they were serving the sick. Let’s pray for them, for their families. I thank God for the example of heroism they give us in caring for the sick.”

In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on the theme of water, suggested by the readings of the fourth Tuesday of Lent (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; John 5 1-16), reported Vatican Media.

Encouraging faithful to reread the Chapter 5 of John’s Gospel, Francis laments how the man waited 38 years to be healed, without doing anything to help himself, and that once Jesus healed him, he still was ungrateful and miserable.

The Jesuit Pope lamented how he kept complaining, never showing joy or appreciation even when healed.

“Many of us Christians,» Francis also lamented, «live in this state of apathy,» noting: “they are incapable of doing a lot but they complain about everything.»

«Apathy,» he stressed, «is poison. It’s a fog that surrounds the soul that doesn’t allow it to live. It’s also a drug because if you taste it often, you like it. You end up addicted to sadness, addicted to apathy…. This is a fairly habitual sin among us. Sadness, apathy…. I’m not going to say melancholy, but it’s very similar…. It is a gray life, gray because of this bad spirit of apathy, sadness, melancholy.”

Recalling how water symbolizes our strength and life, Francis encouraged faithful to think of how Jesus used it to regenerate us in Baptism.

«Let’s also think about ourselves – if there is the danger that one of us might slip into this apathy, into this “neutral” sin – neither black nor white….,» Francis said, stating: «This is a sin that the devil can use to drown our spiritual life and our personal life.»

Pope Francis concluded, praying: «May the Lord help us understand how awful and evil this sin is.”

The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation.

It was announced in recent days that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time.

This comes at a time too when the Italian bishops’ conference has canceled public Masses throughout the nation, until at least April 3rd, following guidelines put out by Italian authorities. The entire country is on lockdown. Many countries worldwide now are increasingly taking precautions against the virus.

In addition to Santa Marta, the Vatican is taking other steps to discourage crowds and keep people safe. They are televising the Pope giving privately, from the papal library, his weekly Angelus and General Audience addresses.

Moreover, the Vatican Museums are now closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.

To date, four people have been tested positive for Coronavirus in the Vatican, Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, explained in a statement tonight. Those in contact with each, are in quarantine at their homes.

For anyone interested, the Pope’s Masses at Santa Marta can be watched live and can be watched afterward on Vatican YouTube. Below is a link to today’s Mass. Also, a ZENIT English translation of the Pope’s full homily can be read below:



Today’s liturgy makes us reflect on water, water as symbol of salvation, because it’s a means of salvation; however, water is also a means of destruction: we think of the Deluge . . . However, in these Readings, water is for salvation. In the First Reading <there is> the water that leads to life, which heals the waters of the sea, a new water that heals. And in the Gospel, the pool, that pool where the sick went, full of water, to be healed, because it was said that every now and then the waters were troubled, as if it were a river, as an Angel came down from Heaven to stir them and the first, or the first ones to throw themselves into the water were healed. And there were many, many sick, as Jesus says “a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed” lay there, waiting to be healed, waiting for the water to be stirred. There was a man there who had been ill for thirty-eight years – 38 years there, waiting to be healed. This makes one think, no? It’s a bit much … because someone who wants to be healed so arranges it as to have someone to help him, he moves, is somewhat quick, somewhat smart . . . but this man, there for 38 years, to the point that it’s not known if he’s sick or dead . . . Seeing him laying there and knowing the reality that he had been there for a long time, Jesus says to him: “Do you want to be healed?” And the answer is interesting: he doesn’t say yes, he complains — of his sickness? No. The sick man answers: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another step down before me” — a man who always arrives late. Jesus says to him: “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” At once that man was healed.

The attitude of this man makes us think. Was he sick? Yes, perhaps he had some paralysis; although, it seems he could walk a bit. However, he was sick in his heart; he was sick in his soul; he was sick with pessimism; he was sick with sadness; he was sick with apathy. This is the illness of this man: “Yes, I want to live, but . . . he was there. However, his answer should have been: “Yes, I want to be healed!” His answer to Jesus’ offer to heal him is a complaint against others. And so, he spent 38 years complaining about others, and doing nothing to be healed.

It was a Sabbath: we heard what the Doctors of the Law did. However, the key is the encounter, later, with Jesus. He found the man in the Temple and said to him: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” That man was in sin, but he wasn’t there because he had done something big – no. His was the sin of surviving and of complaining about the life of others: the sin of sadness, which is the devil’s seed, of that capacity to take a decision on one’s life, and yes, to look at others’ life to complain. Not to criticize them but to complain. “They go first, I am the victim of this life”: complaints, these people breathe complaints.

If we make a comparison with the blind man from birth, which we heard last Sunday, the other Sunday: with what joy, with what decision he took the healing, and, also, with what determination he went to discuss with the Doctors of the Law! He only went and informed them: “Yes, it’s He.” Period. Without compromise with life . . . It makes me think of so many of us, of so many Christians that live in this state of apathy, incapable of something but complaining about everything. And apathy is a poison, it’s a fog that surrounds the soul and doesn’t make it live. And it’s also a drug because if you taste it, it often pleases. And you end up a “sad-addict, an apathy-addict” . . . It’s like the air.  And this is quite a habitual sin among us: sadness, apathy, I don’t say melancholy but it comes close to it.

It will do us good to reread this Chapter 5 of John to see what this illness is into which we can fall. Water is to save us. “But I can’t be saved” – “Why” “Because the fault is of the others.” And I stay there 38 years . . . Jesus heals me: the reaction of the others that were healed isn’t seen, who take up <their> stretcher and dance, sing, give thanks, say it to the whole world? No: he goes on. The others say to him that it must not be done, but he says: “He who healed me said yes to me,” and he goes forward. And then, instead of going to Jesus, to thank Him and all, he informs: “It was He.” A grey life, but grey from this evil spirit that is apathy, sadness, melancholy.

Let us think if water; of that water that is the symbol of our strength, of our life, the water that Jesus used to regenerate us, Baptism. And let us think also of ourselves, if any of us has the danger of sliding into this apathy, into this neutral sin: the sin of the neutral is this, neither white nor black, one doesn’t know what it is. And this is a sin that the devil can use to annihilate our spiritual life and also our life as person.

May the Lord help us to understand how awful and evil is this sin.

Finally, the Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.

Here Is the Prayer the Pope Recited

My Jesus, I believe You are really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all else and I desire You in my soul. As I cannot receive You now sacramentally, come into my heart at least spiritually. As You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You. Do not permit me to be ever separated from You.

[ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ full homily at Santa Marta]


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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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